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Number 1 Pencil & Number 2 Pencil: The Ultimate Guide

1. Introduction

Graphite Pencils
Graphite Pencils

In an article about pencils, we inevitably need to mention the hardness and darkness of the pencil lead. Usually, these values are expressed in terms of H and B plus Arabic numerals. This time, the focus of our article is to introduce another unique way of expressing these values, which is the Arabic numbering of pencils, such as number 1 pencil & number 2 pencil. Let’s get straight to the point.

2. What do the numbers mean for a pencil?

In the United States, pencils have an entirely different grading system, which may be confusing to some. This is similar to the grading system for shoe sizes, where a 27cm shoe may correspond to a different sizing value.

Their corresponding grades are basically as follows:

Pencil Grading Chart
Pencil Grading Chart

Of course, don’t take these values too seriously because different brands don’t interpret them in exactly the same way, so there will be some deviation.

3. Number 1-4 Pencils

Number 1-4 Pencils
Number 1-4 Pencils

In general, pencils are writing and drawing instruments that contain a thin stick of graphite encased in wood. They are categorized by hardness grades, with a higher number indicating a harder pencil that leaves less graphite on the paper. Common pencil grades include #2, #3, and #4.

The numbering system for pencils refers to the hardness and darkness of the pencil’s graphite, with higher numbers indicating harder leads that leave less graphite on the paper. The most commonly produced pencil grade by pencil manufacturers is the #2 pencil, which is medium in darkness and hardness. #1 would be softer and darker than #2.

3.1 Number 1 pencil

Number 1 Pencil & Number 2 Pencil
Number 1 Pencil & Number 2 Pencil

The Number 1 pencil is typically known as the softest pencil. It has a higher graphite content, making it ideal for darker and smoother lines. These pencils are often used for artistic purposes, shading, and drawing where a rich, dark line is desired. However, they may be more prone to smudging due to their softer lead.

Artists favor the Number 1 pencil for tasks that require rich, expressive shading and detailed drawings. The heightened graphite concentration allows for the creation of deep, velvety lines on paper, making it an ideal choice for those seeking to add depth and dimension to their artistic compositions.

Recommendation for Number 1 pencil: Ticonderoga Yellow Pencil

This set contains 2-pack #1 yellow pencils made with premium graphite and a smooth latex-free eraser. The #1 grade indicates these pencils have a medium soft lead, making them versatile for writing, sketching, and standardized tests. They sharpen easily for a fine point that provides a smooth writing experience without excessive smudging.

Ticonderoga #1 pencils feature the distinctive green and yellow ferrule just below the eraser that has become their signature look. They are also produced in the company’s original facilities in Florida, continuing the American-made tradition that began in the 1800s. With their quality craftsmanship and classic design, these #1 Ticonderoga pencils are a reliable choice for school, office, art, and daily writing purposes.

  • ‎Dimensions: 1.9 x 0.7 x 7.6 inches

3.2 Number 2 pencil

Number 2 pencil
Number 2 pencil

The Number 2 pencil is the most common and widely used pencil grade. It is also known as the HB pencil. Number 2 pencils strike a balance between hardness and darkness, making them versatile for various tasks. They are commonly used in standardized tests, writing, and everyday tasks. The medium hardness and dark enough markings make them suitable for a range of applications.

Moreover, the Number 2 pencil is the preferred instrument for standardized tests, as its graphite composition strikes a harmonious equilibrium, producing clear and easily readable marks on scantron sheets. Its adaptability, ranging from smooth writing to precise drawing, positions the Number 2 pencil as an all-purpose tool suitable for a variety of applications in both academic and professional settings.

Recommendation for Number 2 pencil: Golden Bear Blue #2 Pencils

#2 pencils are crafted domestically from authentic, Colorado-grown, Pine-fir and are sturdy for routine usage in the workplace, academy, and household. These superior #2 pencils boast a prime graphite nucleus for seamless penmanship and display the ECO emblem, rendering them harmless and licensed non-poisonous. Procurable in emerald and gold coatings, Golden Bear Blue #2 Pencils bureau and school furnishes are the impeccable inscription mechanism for pupils, prospective literati, reporters, administrative laborers, and habitual scribes.

  • Package Quantity: 12
  • Wood Type: Incense-cedar
  • Barrel Shape: Hexagonal
  • Lead Grade: HB

3.3 Number 3 pencil

Number 3 pencil
Number 3 pencil

The Number 3 pencil is less common and falls on the softer side of the scale. These pencils are often used by artists for sketching and shading. They produce darker lines compared to Number 2 pencils but are not as soft as Number 1 pencils. The Number 3 pencil can be a good choice for those who prefer a softer lead without sacrificing too much precision.

While less common than the standard Number 2 pencil, the Number 3 pencil caters to those who seek a heightened level of darkness and versatility in their artistic endeavors, providing a tool that bridges the gap between fine lines and expressive shading. Artists often turn to the Number 3 pencil for sketching and shading tasks, where a balance between precision and a richer, deeper line is desired.

Recommendation for Number 3 pencil: Enday Number 3 Drawing Pencils

These office and academy writing utensils with eradicators are prepared for application. Dissimilar to most alternatives available, these sanction juveniles the simple felicity of honing a brand-new implement for the very premier instance. The fresh pencils offer adolescents an entertaining and rousing inscription familiarity, male and female students in elementary and intermediate academies just adore these dazzling pens. Illustrating Pencils are fabricated from superior, high-grade, and non-toxic lumber. Pencils #3 coast smoothly over parchment and are extremely fracture-resistant.

The rounded orb-like profile integrates an ergonomic blueprint and proffers an effortless confident, superior contented, and innate fatigue-free and steady hold, enabling you to pleasantly scribble, scrawl, or outline for hours. HB (no3) hardness grading makes them perfect for most varieties of writing or sketching.

3.4 Number 4 pencil

Number 4 pencil
Number 4 pencil

The Number 4 pencil is even softer than the Number 3 pencil, making it suitable for those who want extremely dark and smooth lines. These pencils are primarily used in artistic applications, such as detailed drawings and shading. However, they may require more careful handling as the softer lead is more prone to breakage.

Artists and illustrators favor the Number 4 pencil when working on detailed drawings, shading, and projects that demand a high level of contrast and depth. This grade of pencil allows for the creation of intense and velvety strokes, adding a layer of richness to artistic compositions. However, due to its softer nature, users need to handle the Number 4 pencil with care to prevent breakage. In essence, the Number 4 pencil is a preferred tool for those who prioritize the deepest tones and a luxurious, smooth finish in their artistic work.


  • Dark and Rich Lines: The Number 4 pencil excels in producing exceptionally dark and rich lines, making it ideal for artists who seek high contrast and depth in their drawings.
  • Smooth Shading: Artists appreciate the smooth shading capabilities of the Number 4 pencil, allowing for the creation of gradients and nuanced textures with ease.
  • Expressive Detailing: This pencil is well-suited for intricate detailing in artistic work, offering a level of expressiveness that may be challenging to achieve with harder pencils.


  • Easy to break: Due to its softer graphite core, the Number 4 pencil is more susceptible to breakage. Users need to handle it with care to avoid damage, especially when applying pressure.

4. Are there other types of pencil numbers?

pencil numbers
pencil numbers

The concept of a “Number 2.5 pencil” is not a standardized grading in the traditional pencil grading scale. Pencils are typically graded from 1 to 4, with Number 2 (or HB) being the most common and versatile grade. The scale represents a balance between the hardness and darkness of the pencil’s graphite core.

It is a non-standardized or personalized grading system. It could imply a pencil that is slightly softer than a standard Number 2 pencil but not as soft as a Number 3. In this case, it’s essential to consider the specific characteristics of that particular pencil and how it performs in terms of darkness, smoothness, and precision.

Pencil grading can vary among manufacturers, and some may use different numbering systems. If you encounter a Number 2.5 pencil, it’s recommended to test its performance to understand its characteristics and how it aligns with your writing or drawing preferences.

5. FAQ


Q: What is the main difference between a Number 1 and a Number 2 pencil?

The primary difference lies in the hardness and darkness of the graphite core. Number 1 pencils are softer and darker, favored for artistic work, while Number 2 pencils are more balanced, and commonly used for writing.

Q: Do Number 1 and Number 2 pencils have different lead sizes?

Not necessarily. The grading refers to the hardness and darkness of the graphite core, not the physical size of the lead. However, variations may exist among different pencil brands.

Q: The meaning of H and B

H stands for “hardness” – H pencils have harder leads made of more clay and less graphite. H leads create lighter lines on the paper and are more difficult to smudge.

B stands for “blackness” – B pencils have softer, darker leads made of more graphite and less clay. B leads create bolder, darker lines on paper, but are easier to smudge.

Q: What is the most common pencil number in the USA?

The #2 pen is one of the most ubiquitous writing implements on earth. In the United States of America, numerals are utilized to calibrate pencils, while in the remainder of the world, numbers and letters (which can be referred to as the HB graphite grading scale) are employed to grade pencils.

Q: Can I use a Number 1 pencil for writing?

While it’s possible, Number 1 pencils are generally softer and may result in a smudgier writing experience. They are better suited for artistic tasks like shading and drawing.

Q: Are Number 2 pencils only for standardized tests?

No, Number 2 pencils are versatile and commonly used for everyday writing tasks. They are the standard choice for standardized tests due to their balanced graphite composition.

Q: Are there other factors, besides grading, to consider when choosing a pencil?

Yes, factors such as pencil wood type, eraser quality, and pencil brand can also influence the choice of a pencil, depending on personal preferences and specific needs.

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Pencil Product Specialist-Julia Lee


I'm Julia, the CEO of Honeyoung Bag. I run a company with over 300 people, we produce, sell and export bags. I spent over 30 years in bag manufacturing and business. We can provide you one-stop service of bag purchase, including design, produce, export bag products to your place. If any questions, freely to reach me,I'll try my best to give you advice and solution.

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